Crisis intervention can make a difference in police confrontations

Crisis intervention can make a difference in police confrontations
As the public began to digest the body cam video LMPD released, many asked -- what else could police do
Sergeant Pamela Oberhausen, LMPD's Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Sergeant Pamela Oberhausen, LMPD's Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - On April 8, a confrontation with police in Pleasure Ridge Park ended in a man being shot to death by officers. Two Louisville Metro Police Department officers fired their weapons, killing Russell Bowman, 45, after he lunged at one of them with a screwdriver. That shooting is still under investigation.

In many cases, specific information to 911 can be crucial in a situation like that one. Knowing information like a person's mental health may not have changed the outcome of the recent shooting, but certainly can better prepare officers for every call that they answer.

LMPD officials said Monday during a news conference that what ended in a deadly shooting began as a run on an intoxicated and disorderly subject. Intoxicated and disorderly is one of the most routine calls to 911 dispatchers.

After Bowman got into a confrontation with officers, lunging at one with a screwdriver and was shot and killed by police, his family told WAVE 3 News, he was likely on drugs which causes his unpredictable behavior.

"Sometimes we get dispatched on a disorderly person and it turns out to be a CIT run," explained Sergeant Pamela Oberhausen, LMPD's Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator.

Before the gun, what options do police have?
LMPD releases body cam video, details of deadly officer-involved shooting

Because it came as intoxicated and disorderly, the run involving Bowman was not a CIT run. While most officers have had CIT training, many times when a CIT call goes out an officer well experienced in crisis training who can help de-escalate a situation, will show up to help. Oberhausen says those officers bring the calm as best they can.

"If that person is screaming, I want them to sink to me so I want to speak in a low calm voice," Oberhausen said. "You take a step back, you stand there and try to talk to them in a normal conversation no matter what they're saying to you."

CIT always looks for a non-lethal ending methods using batons, spray and tasers when possible. In 2017, LMPD had 2,274 CIT calls with 2,176 of those ending with no force of any kind. Of the remaining 98 runs, 80 were empty hand endings meaning controlled without a weapon, 13 ended by officers using a taser. Even if the run that resulted in Bowman's shooting had been a CIT call, it may have made no difference.

"What other job can you go literally from taking a criminal mischief report to all the sudden chasing a bank robber?" Oberhausen asked.

Whether an officer has had a recent CIT refresher course or not, Oberhausen said each situation calls for an officer's training to kick in. During the recent deadly police encounter, three officers tried to tase Bowman. Officers could also be heard over and over on body camera video telling Bowman they didn't want to hurt him and commanding him to put the weapon down, which didn't happen.

Oberhausen, who teaches CIT to agencies across Kentucky, hopes the public remembers their goal is to help people, but "if they don't let us help them, then we go home at the end of the day."

Dispatchers also have a list of questions they can ask callers to help decide what kind of run will go out. But Oberhausen said many times callers don't have those answers.

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